Idaho Examiner - Sen. Larry Craig News Releases

Friday, July 22, 2005

Cowboy up

by Senator Larry Craig and Congressman C.L. “Butch” Otter

If you've ever tuned your radio to a country-western station, chances are you've heard the Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings classic "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys." That title has always struck us as strange advice, because the lines of the song don't truly capture the spirit of the West and the men and women who settled it - the cowboys. Most cowboys we know are people who young folks ought to look up to.

On May 12, 2005, in order to recognize and encourage "the contributions made by cowboys to their communities," the U.S. Senate unanimously approved a resolution designating Saturday, July 23, 2005 as "National Day of the American Cowboy. " Having ranching in our blood, we both agree this was a fitting tribute to a way of life that still plays such a large and important role in Idaho.

Growing up, practically every young child dreams of being a cowboy, even if only for a little while. We looked up to cowboys as role models and heroes - people we should try to emulate some day. In some parts of the country though, the term "cowboy" is applied as an insult or a joke, suggesting that someone is simple, dull, or unsophisticated. In Idaho and across the West, however, we understand that simple isn't a bad thing, and that a life in the saddle may not be glamorous, but it often is far from dull.

While ranchers operate around the globe, the cowboy is truly an American symbol, as much a part of our national history as the Founding Fathers and the American Revolution. They played a vital role in crossing and settling the American West, and define who and what we are as a nation.

The qualities most often associated with cowboys - strength, hard work, honesty, integrity, courage and patriotism - are qualities that are essential to a thriving civil society. Cowboys understand justice, but they don't take the law into their own hands. They believe a man's word is his bond, and they look for the best in the people around them.

Contrary to popular legend, the picture of the lonely wanderer is the romanticized version of the cowboy, not the true story. Cowboys work together as a team, not alone. It's nearly impossible to round up cattle when there's only one person to do it. Only through teamwork can the herd be brought in, and the calves vaccinated and branded. As a result, and as a habit, cowboys look out for the good of others, not just themselves.

Although the National Day of the American Cowboy may have passed by the time most of you have had a chance to read this, we encourage you to celebrate the cowboy qualities that have become such defining characteristics of Americans of all walks of life. Mammas, we think you'd do well to let those babies grow up to be cowboys.

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